Developmental trends in adaptive memory

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Otgaar, H. ; Howe, M. L. ; Smeets, T. ; Garner, S. R. (2014)

Recent studies have revealed that memory is enhanced when information is processed for fitness-related purposes. The main objective of the current experiments was to test developmental trends in the evolutionary foundation of memory using different types of stimuli and paradigms. In Experiment 1, 11-year-olds and adults were presented with neutral, negative, and survival-related DRM word lists. We found a memory benefit for the survival-related words and showed that false memories were more likely to be elicited for the survival-related word lists than for the other lists. Experiment 2 examined developmental trends in the survival processing paradigm using neutral, negative, and survival-related pictures. A survival processing advantage was found for survival-related pictures in adults, for negative pictures in 11/12-year-olds, and for neutral pictures in 7/8-year-olds. In Experiment 3, 11/12-year-olds and adults had to imagine the standard survival scenario or an adapted survival condition (or pleasantness condition) that was designed to reduce the possibilities for elaborative processing. We found superior memory retention for both survival scenarios in children and adults. Collectively, our results evidently show that the survival processing advantage is developmentally invariant and that certain proximate mechanisms (elaboration and distinctiveness) underlie these developmental trends.
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